The photoreceptor ribbon synapse is a highly specialized glutamatergic synapse designed for the continuous flow of synaptic vesicles to the neurotransmitter release site. The molecular mechanisms underlying ribbon synapse formation are poorly understood. We have investigated the role of the presynaptic cytomatrix protein Bassoon, a major component of the photoreceptor ribbon, in a mouse retina deficient of functional Bassoon protein. Photoreceptor ribbons lacking Bassoon are not anchored to the presynaptic active zones. This results in an impaired photoreceptor synaptic transmission, an abnormal dendritic branching of neurons postsynaptic to photoreceptors, and the formation of ectopic synapses. These findings suggest a critical role of Bassoon in the formation and the function of photoreceptor ribbon synapses of the mammalian retina.